Not long after Baltimore, MD was hit with a malware attack that crippled several of their city government’s systems for weeks, Philadelphia’s First Judicial District (FJD) discovered their network had been compromised by their own malware infection. Though the city government has yet to reveal the exact details of the digital culprit, it is known that the online domain first went down sometime May 21, with the Philly court system making it known through social media the following day. After a few false starts, the city confirmed that it restored most of their web properties by June 26, with the exception of three online portals.
City officials have remained unclear on how the attack occurred or what type of infection it was, or even to what extent the FJD’s system was compromised. The only details they have revealed are that a portion of the machines on their network were found with a yet-to-be-named virus that forced them to shut down their website and user portals. Some officials have given conflicting reports on the origins of the virus, with at least one claiming it came from Russian hackers.
Back to Paper and Slow Lines
Wherever the cyber attack came from, the result remains the same – the FJD cut off electronic access to the majority of its resources, forcing attorneys, administrative personnel and citizens to revert to paper filings and face-to-face bureaucracy. Despite some leeway promised by the Philly courts’ Twitter account, several residents were held at the mercy of the city’s communication blackout and the disconnect between the various government branches.
City Cyber Attacks
Baltimore, Philadelphia, and now Key Biscayne, Riviera Beach and Lake City in Florida are the latest in a long line of US municipalities that have been targeted by malware attacks. The most common vehicle has been ransomware, with hackers encrypting critical files and demanding payment in cryptocurrency. One such infection occurred in Newark, NJ in 2017, which was eventually traced back to two Iranian cybercriminals who had been previously targeting NJ businesses before they moved onto the public sector.
According to CNN, at least 170 government systems have been targeted by hackers since 2013. The report they cite also emphasizes that many ransomware attacks go unreported, contributing to the lack of security awareness among public entities. Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance – whose city was also a victim of the same Iranian ransomware that hit Newark – went before a congressional subcommittee to raise awareness on the need for better cybersecurity among city governments.
As the victims of the ransomware epidemic unfortunately continue to demonstrate, coming back from a successful attack can be expensive. Despite this, many public and private institutions allow themselves to remain at risk by not following data security best practices and ignoring critical loopholes in their network defense. Any combination of higher data file volume and endpoint proliferation creates a serious network vulnerability, such as in a legal system defined by consistent technology use.
The reality is that we live in an increasingly online world, and while that may have been a novel concept a decade ago, we are now subject to the fast pace of the digital age. Internet connections deliver everything quickly, including malware. Your data is no longer a collection of spreadsheets and folders sitting on a desktop – it is a valuable asset that can be stolen, deleted, or exploited.
Back Up Your Data to Defend Against Malware Infection
Ransomware was expected to diminish in 2019, but this latest string of attacks indicate that cybercriminals are only adjusting targets as they discover more vulnerable networks. The only way to protect against the harm of ransomware without giving to hackers’ demands is to ensure your data is backed up and secured.
Download our report on backup and data protection practices for SMBs to learn why a backup solution is integral for any organizations.